It is a mere two weeks until Camp NaNoWriMo kicks into gear. As such, any writing progress has been steadily focused on planning and preparation. Brainstorming, index cards, research, note-taking, video-watching, creative gathering, begging for reassurance from any and all my artist friends… it’s all been a part of the routine this last week or two.
And one of the things that’s been on my mind lately–apart from the frantic mantra of “get it done get it done oh god write the outline already and get it done–” has been , how do I get and stay excited to write this book in particular?
Admittedly, this time around, it won’t be the issue it has sometimes been in the past. I really like this project. It’s easy for me to think about this book, and I always, always want to talk about it. The fact that this series has occupied a significant portion of my creative thoughts for well over a year, now, suggests that staying inspired is not exactly a hardship.
But also, I’ve spoken to loads of other writer-ly people as of late, and it seems to be a common theme this last week. Something about daylight savings and the onset of spring fever, perhaps–I’ve had friends talk about new projects that popped up, fully-formed and shiny, like a creative gift from the writing-gods-that-be. Others have spoken of potential projects and being unsure where to focus their efforts, and second-guessing first choices due to personal hang-ups–the like. It’s gotten me thinking. How do you go about picking a project, and how do you then settle into (nay–snuggle up in) it and hunker down for the long haul?
And how do you keep writing on it?
I read a how-to a while back which said you should live and breathe your project. Want to write a poem? read poems. Play rhyming games. Listen to music and measure out the rhythms, make note of patterns you like and pleasant surprises. Take a walk someplace beautiful and journal about it, and try to make a poem. Surround yourself with poetry and poetry-inspiring things, and fill yourself with poetic thoughts.
In a way, I think the same kind of logic applies. Some things I’ve done to keep the muse feeling full and refreshed include:
- read fantasy novels, after a long dry stint of not-much-reading
- read non-fantasy novels and stories, to remind myself of why I’ve picked fantasy over all the other genres out there
- actively sought new and inspiring music which one might expect to hear from a high-fantasy soundtrack
- let myself listen to trashy music, and come around to the fact that, yes, these lyrics really do fit my character
- talked about the project all the time, with anyone who would listen
- watched the youtube channels of other writers, taking notes on anything that I learned
- frequently played the “what if” game–to see if I can find new subplots, new direction, new twists to add in
- given myself enough to do on the book that, whether I feel like outlining, world building, drawing, daydreaming, developing characters, writing backstory… I’ll always have something I can work on that will enrich the story
- looked up pictures of different people who I’d ideally want to play my characters in a film adaptation
- vented about my fears on social media
- boasted my successes on social media
- put my characters up for various ask memes, both to develop the characters and (hopefully) engage future readers
- drank way too much tea in the hopes of achieving a caffeine-fueled creative high
And so on…
The takeaway here, of course, is that there are a thousand and one ways to get yourself inspired. What I’m finding is that a lot of inspiration is highly intentional. Inspiration isn’t a whole lot of sitting around and waiting for it to happen, but rather, an active process of gathering and focusing, seeking out resources when you feel stuck, trying new things, falling back on old-but-useful things.
And some days, even so, you won’t feel inspired. At least, I don’t. And that’s okay. The plan is there when the well feels like it’s drying up. You can’t make it rain, but you can tap into that water storage tank you installed with your dad way back in December.
(The metaphor may be very specific and personal, but hey, tell me it isn’t true.)
So when I say, “get inspired,” I suppose what I’m actually talking about is getting into the thick of it. A novel isn’t just the words that go down, or the gift from the muse to want to write it. It’s the research and the frustration, the four separate times you tried to outline it and the fifth time when you finally succeeded. It’s the note-taking, the note-reading, the note-re-reading. It’s watching other writers talk about writing and wondering why it’s so hard for you. It’s trying their advice and liking it–or trying it and realizing you like your process better.
It’s going outside and saying, “what if my fantasy world had blue-colored plants instead of green ones?”
It’s saying, “this idea I had is bonkers, it’d be wild, it would probably never work… but what if it did?”
Inspiration is not so much a state of being, I think, as it is an act of looking, and being open to ideas. It’s giving yourself the freedom to think–to say “yes” a lot, and to say “no” when you’ve got to.
So here I am, getting inspired! Feel free to hit me up and tell me how you go about getting inspired for your projects. Until then, take good care, friends–and here’s to the writing!